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Tent Care Advice

Please read this page carefully. Helping you achieve the longest possible product life is an important responsibility and one we accept willingly. Most of the gear we make draws in some way on the Earth's diminishing resources.

While much of the following information may be considered common sense, our 30 years of experience of making, using and repairing tents, as well as answering many, many customer questions, makes us inclined to present you with the full story. We have provided specific product instructions and useful DIY repair notes on separate web pages.

Tent Fabrics and Materials

The tent fabrics we have chosen involve lightweight, high-tenacity polyester and nylon fabrics in both ripstop and plain weaves, and finishes including PU back coatings, silicone elastomer surface finishes and DWR (durable water repellent) and FR (flame retardant) treatments. The insect screens are knitted nylon.

Tapes and zippers are either nylon or polyester. Buckles and other fittings are molded from either nylon or Acetal® resins. The tent poles and pegs, as well as zip sliders, are made from special, high tensile aluminium alloys.

These yarns, coatings, plastics and metals respond in different ways to various common solvents and chemicals, to the UV in sunlight, to heat, to dampness, to salt contamination, to abrasion, to wet flexing and to puncturing and tearing. Although salt contamination and corrosion of aluminium components require your constant vigilance, fabric coatings are probably the most susceptible to premature and irrecoverable degradation if not properly cared for.

General Tent Care and Storage

Avoid exposing your tent to agents that will cause immediate damage or premature deterioration. Avoid setting your tent up on thorny or rough ground. For example, clear away things like sticks, loose rocks and double-gees where the tent floor will lie. Avoid positions where branches may rub on the tent if the wind picks up (and check overhead for dangerous looking tree limbs!). Depending on circumstances you may also need to consider the possibility of snow avalanche, rock fall and electrical storms. Do not leave any lightweight tent set up unnecessarily in strong sunlight. General camping holidays in fixed locations are the trap in this regard. Irrespective of type or protective treatment it might have, no fabric is immune to some level of UV degradation.

Take particular care in vehicles and near camp fires. Battery acid, fuels and cinders may cause immediate damage. Do not leave your packed tent in the car where extreme heat build-up on a hot summer day can be sufficient to cause fabric coatings to become sticky and seam tape to release. Avoid exposing any fabrics to temperatures higher than 60 degrees Celcius.

The reality that many people do cook in their tent vestibule needs to be recognised. It is normal for tent manufacturers to simply advise against this practice but, given we do it ourselves, this would be a cop out. If you choose to cook in this confined space you must first be totally proficient in operating your backpacking stove, including knowing all the risks and being prepared to handle possible emergencies. This experience doesn't come from a few uses. You must exercise extreme caution both with regard to keeping nearby equipment a safe distance from the stove, maintaining stove stability, preventing fume accumulation and maintaining general ventilation, and taking care while moving around the operating stove.

Beware! Some animals will eat directly through tent fabric to get to your food. Their accuracy at pin pointing a bag of pasta or muesli is astounding. Take sensible precautions by removing food from your tent and, if possible, hanging it out of harm's way. It's a fact that camping gear is commonly stored in damp garages and basements. If you live in an area where termites are common and active beware of storing your tent on or against wooden shelving or framing where termites may become active. Yes, we've seen it all!

After each use and before storing, clean then thoroughly air dry your tent. Hanging it loosely for a few days, inside, in a dry place out of the sun is the best way to ensure thorough drying. Thicker parts of the construction will be the last to dry. Also, if you are backpacking but then use huts for a number of nights in a row, don't forget your wet tent. Be sure to unpack and air it during your period of hut use. Coated fabrics must never be left damp for extended periods. Water will slowly hydrolise the coating and lead to early delamination. There's no real cure for this. A further worthwhile precaution is to store your tent loosely in an air-permeable bag (like a pillow slip) rather than tightly folded, rolled or compressed in its carry bag. Make sure the storage area is dry and there is adequate fresh air circulation.

Cleaning Tents (Including Dealing With Mildew)

The easiest way to clean your tent is to erect it first. If you can, choose a warm day. Dissolve a small amount of laundry detergent in warm water and lightly sponge the fabric surfaces. If necessary, gently wipe stubborn, greasy spots with a rag dampened with white spirit or dry-cleaning fluid. Do not use strong hardware store solvents like acetone or lacquer thinners. Any of these may damage coatings and lamination adhesives.

Thorough rinsing is best done with a hose. When the outer tent is more or less dry, dismantle the tent and finish hosing off the inner floor. We find hanging it over a line is the most convenient way to do this. Allow the complete tent to dry thoroughly. If you used white spirit or dry-cleaning fluid on the outer surface of your outer tent you may like to restore the water repellency that use of these solvents will have certainly diminished. Instructions are provided below.

Although rarely, we do get asked how to remove mildew from badly neglected tents. The use of strong, oxidising bleach solutions is not recommended, however sponging affected areas with a very dilute bleach solution will do little harm to materials. Leave the fabric damp with the solution for at least half-an-hour. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, or additionally, set the tent up in summer sunlight for several days. The UV will sterilize the mildewed fabric faster than it will deteriorate it. (Our experience is that it takes some months of strong sunlight to significantly weaken lightweight tent fabrics).

Care of Zips and Zip Sliders

Without question, the most common cause of grief across all outdoor gear, not just tents, involve zip sliders. Unless a product is specifically destined for use in a marine environment, we use 'continuous spiral / coil' zips. They are strong, impact resistant, lightweight and flexible, and not subject to the irrepairable damage teeth zips can suffer. Sometimes we use PU coated versions of the coil zips in places where they can eliminate the need for bulky or awkward cover flaps. Whatever the case, take careful note of the followingâ€Â¦..

It is important to keep all zips clean and free of salt and grit. If you use your gear in a marine or other salt affected environment make sure you frequently rinse salt from zips, zip sliders and other metallic components, particularly before storage. If you don't, corrosion will certainly occur requiring slider and possibly whole zip replacement. Grit also contributes to premature slider wear. Hosing with fresh water will remove salt and most grit. After cleaning, rinsing and drying, lubricate the zip coils and fittings with a silicone spray. This will significantly reduce slider drag and wear, and prolong zip life. The use of excessive force in operating zips causes slider distortion. This results in zip coils not meshing when the zip is being closed.

If you do have a zip problem look up our page on DIY repairs before you do anything else (like scream for help). Zips are not as mysterious or recalcitrant as you might imagine. With a little guidance and empowerment many problems can be fixed on the kitchen table.

Maintaining Water Beading on Synthetic Fabric Surfaces

While particularly advantageous for rainwear and other clothing, there are advantages in maintaining the water repellency of the synthetic fabrics used in you tent. Sooner or later the hydrophobic silicone or fluoro-polymer DWR finishes applied to these fabrics deteriorate. The main advantages of maintaining them are that your tent will dry more quickly, water will be less likely to wick through those points that are impossible to effectively machine seam seal during the tent's production, zips will benefit from the treatment, snow and ice will be less likely to adhere to the fabric, and cleaning will be easier. Spray or brush application of liquid re-treatment water repellents are the only practical application methods for tents. Ask your outdoor store for the latest formulation. There are variations in the amounts and types of active ingredients between brands.

Care of Metal Components

Your tent's high tech aluminium alloy poles require careful attention. Salt particularly, but also grit, need to be kept at bay. After a trip along the coast or on a boat, be sure to thoroughly rinse the salt from poles and pegs. Sea kayakers take note! Our tent poles are lightweight and, in use, stressed closer to their failure limits than most structures. There is little allowance made for the weakening effects of corrosion. The best way we have found to do remove salt (and grit) is to tie the poles out horizontally, end for end, so that all sections and connectors can be spaced out separately along the shock cord. Then you can hose the pole line thoroughly to remove the salt and allow all components to dry. You could also make the most of the opportunity to spray some slip silicone on the connecting areas once the parts are dry.

If your tent fabric is contaminated from salt spray it also needs rinsing. A big part of the problem is due to the fact that salt is hygroscopic, it sucks water from the atmosphere and remains constantly damp. Your tent and components may appear dry and clean when you put them into storage but they will absorb moisture when atmospheric humidity is high. This leads to corrosion, especially quickly with metal zip sliders and non-anodised surfaces. (The normal operation of a zip slider eventually causes protective paint and surface finishes to be abraded away on the inside of the fitting).

Finally.....

Be sure to read the Tent Instructions web page. It covers the details of setting up and using your tent.

The other web page you could look at before you head out back country is our Tent DIY Repairs one. It's not a bad idea to be forearmed with information that can help you overcome a problem in the field no matter what may have been the cause of it.

If you do need our help we will be pleased to give it. Consult your retailer first. If it comes down to a return, they can often send equipment back to us more quickly and cheaply that you may be able to. Just make sure your gear is clean and dry before you send it back. Humans are actually involved at every turn and occupational health and safety is the concern of everyone.

 
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